Emanuele Grimaldi at the XXIII Grimaldi Group EuroMed Convention

By Nicola Capuzzo, for Ferry Shipping News

At the 23rd edition of the annual Grimaldi Group EuroMed Convention, held in Sicily, CEO Emanuele Grimaldi gave an overview of the company’s business trends. The key issue of the event was ‘green shipping’ and Grimaldi started by saying: “It has been a year of environmental work for our group”. Below are some of the most important topics and quotes from the seasoned shipowner, taken from his presentation and press conference.

The dream of a zero-emission ship

“All players in the maritime field will have to cope with the new IMO <0.5% sulphur emission limits from January 2020, and will have to prepare to cut carbon emissions significantly in the coming years. IMO, ICS and other international formal and informal bodies where shipowners and maritime stakeholders meet, are all studying and deciding on ways to concretely, individually and collectively contribute to such an ambitious and historic goal.

Grimaldi Group is actively participating in and contributing to these key international discussions. We have built up significant know-how in the field and started an R&D stream in our Energy Saving department. In addition we joined Clean Alliance 2020, the S.A.I.L.S. voluntary scheme, and several European and academic study groups, and also contributed to pilot projects on hydrogen and electrical engines.

On the longer term, we have a dream. The dream is zero-emission navigation, carrying goods with no negative impact on the planet. This is what people are asking for. Zero emissions is something that can and must be achieved, but it still requires some consistent studies. A toolbox, featuring a mix of batteries, hydrogen, ammonia and fuel cell engines, is starting to emerge from research.”

Green investments

“We systematically look after speed and trim optimisation, hull and bulb shaping, rebladings, Promas Lite, air lubrication systems, silicon paintings and other hydrodynamic measures, and we implemented them on almost all our ships to meet the goal. Eight ships were also lengthened in an effort to decrease the consumption per ton transported, and therefore increase environmental efficiency.
We are a frontrunner on some green technologies. Grimaldi Group studied, devised and patented a zero-emission in-port vessel concept which was first applied on two cruises lengthened in the Med. We mounted large ship battery packs on them, with a 5.5MWh capacity, making them the biggest hybrid vessels in the world. The concept has been enriched with solar panels, LED lighting and other measures which will help us bring it to our several newbuilding projects.”

Grimaldi’s clean air investment programme

“But the most remarkable results in cutting polluting emissions in our fleet have been delivered by our Grimaldi Group clean air investment programme. The goal of the plan is the almost total removal of our fleet’s SOx and particulate emissions. The first step of the plan is ordering 29 newbuildings which all include exhaust cleaning systems onboard. Ten of those ships were already delivered and the remaining 19 will be released by the yard over the next three years.
The clean air investment plan also applies to the majority of our existing fleet. No fewer than 75 vessels in service, with a total of 162 engines, have been called to rotate and stop in yard so that exhaust gas cleaning systems can be mounted onboard. Half of the vessels have already been retrofitted, and the other half will be done within a couple of years.
In the last ten years the group environmental records have improved consistently. In the last two years alone it has transported 17% more cargo, while consuming 2% less fuel per mile sailed, and emitting less gas per ton of cargo and per mile, in particular dramatically less sulphur and particulates.”

Newbuidlings programme

“Grimaldi Group is eagerly waiting the delivery of five additional mega car carriers by the Yangfan yards. In addition, last year we ordered 12 GG5G ro-ro units from the Jinling yards. They will feature an air lubrication system, hydrodynamic hull and propeller, solar panels, LED lighting and battery packs, all designed for more efficient navigation and zero emissions in port. They will be the most environmentally friendly ro-ro ships in the world.
Furthermore, we are now ordering 2 Superstars with a high ice class, a number of energy-saving and emission-reducing systems, and the biggest battery pack ever mounted on a ship.
Finally, we are designing a ‘Supercruise’ ship for the Med, with zero emissions in port, air bubble hydrodynamics, half consumption and double capacity, as well as plug in and internal recharging batteries.”

Financial strength and diversification

“Turnover in 2019 was stable, and operative results of the Group have been positive and in line with previous years. Since the economic crisis started in 2008, we realised that banks can lend less money to companies, so we re-organised and systematically reinvested all profits in the Group. Over the past decade we have increased our capital by more than €2 billion whilst considerably reducing our debt.
The Group remains focused on logistics. We predict significant growth in this sector, both organic and through mergers and acquisitions.
Credit rating agencies usually highly appreciate risk diversification of companies. Grimaldi Group developed a significant multidimensional risk diversification: we call the Baltic, the North Sea, the Mediterranean, as well as South Atlantic, North Atlantic and West Africa. We serve both passengers and cargo, and within the latter we serve several types of unitised cargo. We transport new cars and used cars, lorries and trailers. We carry forest industry products from paper to cardboard and wood. We also accept pallets, containers, roll trailers and semibulk cargo as well as high and heavy cargo and special transport. We can also count on a wide diversification of asset classes from ships to offices, from privately owned port to city buildings.
This gives us good resilience and stability for the years to come and local crisis.”

Results from the divisions of Grimaldi Group

“In the EuroMed business we had to cope with the first contraction of the car sector for many years and with an extremely competitive environment in the Westmed shortsea. But competition is always healthy and improves our ways of working, so:
– In the car carrier sector we recently introduced the GRANDE TORINO and will introduce the GRANDE MIRAFIORI in a few weeks, strengthening the US and Mexico rotations
– As far as Sardinia is concerned: we added dedicated tonnage and opened up two new lines. Cargo market share grew in one year from 35% to 57% (now we are the leaders) and passenger numbers increased by 110k in one year
– In Sicily we remain highly committed to clients, and we aim at consolidating our leadership both in the Eastern and Western part of the region. We look forward to using some of our admiral ships on the island of Sicily and in Malta.
– Turning to the Spanish market: The large investment in the lengthening of the CRUISE ROMA and CRUISE BARCELONA demonstrates our commitment to this traffic. They were the biggest ropax in the Med and now they are even bigger. With the future deployment of the GG5G we will go even bigger on this trade lane.
All in all, during 2018 on Med short sea lines we experienced a passenger volume growth of 12% and a cargo volume growth of 4%. In the first half of 2019 we saw more growth, of 7% and 8% respectively.
In the deep-sea market we had a good year, with the introduction of an additional ConRo and an increased frequency on America-West Africa and Mediterranean-West Africa connections.
Despite the high volatility and uncertainty of US bound international trade, on North Atlantic the lines managed by ACL reduced their losses considerably and managed to break even. ACL management is confident that the positive situation will continue and the company will be back in the black in 2020. The company has a full set of new mega-ships to rely on and grow.”

New Safety and Security Office

“This year we suffered fire and drug events onboard our ships. These have recently occurred to many other shipowners too. The world shipping community shall strengthen the fire prevention rules at the shippers’ end, introduce sanctions for dangerous cargo misdeclaration, and make container stuffing conformity declarations compulsory.
While we hope that collective action takes place and awareness is raised on the higher level, on the individual level Grimaldi Group, although not being in charge of custom controls, has increased its already strong cooperation with custom authorities and polices, invested in additional scanners, developed even stricter fire prevention procedures, and created a Safety and Security Office. This is staffed with expert
international Senior Militaries and Police Officers with experience in narcotrafficking and other crimes.”

Finnlines’ results

“Finnlines confirmed its positive results since the introduction of sulphur limits in 2015.
After investing in exhaust gas cleaning systems, reblading, lengthenings, land logistic efficiency, passenger interiors and newbuildings, it improved its economic and environmental results over the lprevious ten years, employing fewer ships, larger in size, and saving about 30% in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Both tons and passengers transported grew year-on-year in 2018.
In 2019 we are on track to achieve another good result, despite the weak economic situation in Northern Europe.
We have two newbuilding programmes running.”

Minoan not yet satisfactory

“Minoan has been the first Greek company to invest in exhaust gas cleaning systems. It has zero debt, liquidity, property buildings and tangible assets to face the future confidently and it remains ready to seize any opportunities that may arise in the Greek ferry market. Results are not yet satisfactory, though.
All in all, the results of the Group have been satisfactory and even a bit better than the previous year.
We are always interested in investing in terminals and we are ready to buy ports, Heraklion included, if the chance should arise.”